Portfolio Learnings: How Frontier Markets is providing access to clean water

Published on: 14/12/2020

Aiming to make life easier for rural households with clean, energy-efficient solutions, Frontier Markets is the latest project supported by TRANSFORM to feature in our Portfolio Learnings.

Frontier Markets is a last-mile distribution company whose mission is to meet the needs of families and communities in rural areas. With TRANSFORM’s support, it is now aiming to overcome the challenges regarding access to clean water.

The idea is to leverage Unilever’s product basket in water purification, which would help build a scaled market for untapped product solutions, to impact rural households in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Reaching the last mile with safe water

While there is no shortage of water purification technologies in Rajasthan, the challenge is reaching last-mile rural households regularly, driving awareness and creating demand for safe drinking water.

To achieve this, Frontier Markets tapped into its network of 2,500 women entrepreneurs (Solar Sahelis). They are trained in sales, marketing, technical repair, digitisation and data collection, to understand and reach the end customer.

In this project, TRANSFORM supported Frontier Markets in this mission to both impact households’ ability to access safe water, and empower female entrepreneurs to earn an income by becoming safe water experts. The project included:

  • Water testing and mapping
  • Product training
  • Product market testing
  • Marketing activities
  • Loan programme
  • Sales monitoring and collections
  • After-sales service

As can be expected from implementing pioneering projects, there were several challenges that emerged due to the complexity of water issues and matching it with technical learnings. Furthermore, it was critical to consider the links between water quality and local health-related issues.

Key lessons learned

One of the main concerns was the amount of education required to ensure that households do not misuse the purification systems by adding muddy water to it.

Therefore, Frontier Markets concluded that each location requires investment in thorough water testing, individual household assessment to ensure the right infrastructure is available, and systems’ monitoring to respond to service issues quickly.

The company has now built a rigorous system to be able to identify target areas, map target households, and assess their ability to take on water systems quickly. It has also been able to decentralise water testing in the field.

Besides this, TRANSFORM has enabled Frontier Markets to build other systems in training processes, digital marketing materials, marketing and customer acquisition process, strong operations for delivery and service, and a financial service system.

For more information on the projects supported by TRANSFORM, please visit our Portfolio.

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